15 Sep 2010

Give information in local langauge: High Court

In line with an interpretation which not only follows the letter but also the spirit of the law, the Uttrakhand High Court in a recently reported decision [State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Uttarakhand v. Uttarakhand State Information Commission] has declared that information is to be provided by the public authority under the Right to Information Act, 2005 in the local language. The High Court, accordingly directed provision of information in Hindi.

The High Court inter alia observed as under;
It is a common misconception prevailing even today that information must be given to citizens only when it is asked. This is not the case. Most of the information has to be given by the public authority, suo motu, under Section 4 of the Act which has to be periodically updated by various means of communications, including internet so that the public should have a minimum resort to the use of this Act for obtaining information. In other words the endeavour of the public authority should be such that the information should be readily available to citizens by available means of communication, including internet and the other means so that they may not have to request for information under Section 6 of the Act. Under Section 6 of the Act only a formal request has to be made in writing to the public information officer of a public authority which is duty bound to furnish the information within a period of one month. All the same, before one resorts to Section 6 most of the information concerning the public authority has to be disseminated to public in a manner, “which is easily accessible to the public”.
Now the intention of Legislature is absolutely clear from the unambiguous composition of the language of the statute, referred above. An information must be given to a citizen in the language, which he understands. It is the legislative mandate that “information” must be disseminated considering, inter alia, the “local language” of the area. Similar is the mandate of the Constitution of India which is given under Article 350 read with Article 345 of the Constitution of India. Article 345 has already been referred to above. Article 350 for ready reference is being reproduced as below :-
“350. Language to be used in representations for redress of grievances. – Every person shall be entitled to submit a representation for the redress of any grievance to any officer or authority of the Union or a State in any of the languages used in the Union or in the State, as the case may be.”
A citizen is entitled to submit a representation to any officer or authority of a Union or a State in any of the languages used in the Union or in the State, as the case may be. The language which is used in the State of Uttarakhand is Hindi. The representation in form of application was given by respondent no. 3 before the public authority i.e. the petitioner in Hindi. Hindi happens to be the official language of the Union as well as the State of Uttarakhand. Yet this information has not been supplied to respondent no. 3 in Hindi language. Therefore, there is a clear violation of the relevant provisions of the Right to Information Act as well as that of the Constitution of India by the petitioner and the State Information Commission is, therefore, right in holding so and awarding compensation to respondent no. 3.
Since the order passed by the public authority is a document, it comes within the definition of record, as defined under Section 2 (i) of the Act and the definition of ‘information’ as given under Section 2 (f) of the Act. This document is held by and is under the control of a public authority, and therefore respondent no. 3 had a right to get this document.
There is no dispute regarding the fact that the State Consumer Commission is an instrumentality of the State. Their salary is paid by the consolidated fund of the State Government and their service conditions have been given under the rules framed by the State Government under Section 3 of the Uttar Pradesh Consumer Protection Rules, 1987. The President, Vice President, members of the Commission, public information officer as well as the appellate authority nominated under the Act are all public authorities.
A public authority should facilitate in the easy distribution of information to a citizen. The provisions of the Right to Information Act read in the light of the Constitution of India as well as the Consumer Protection Act speak loud and clear that in the present case, State Consume Commission was duty bound to furnish a translated copy of its judgment/order once such a requisition was made to it.
The approach of the Consumer Commission, however, was patently wrong. Not only was it in violation of sub-sections (3) and (4) to Section 4 of the Act the approach of the petitioner defeats the objects and goals for which the Right to Information Act was enacted. It is elementary that the language of the State being Hindi not only the information was liable to be given to respondent no. 3 in Hindi but more particularly when such an information was sought in Hindi, it was even more necessary for the Consumer Commission to have translated its order in Hindi and supplied the copy to the applicant. 
Have a look at the decision.

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